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Cohort!

June 30, 2010

I’ve followed the autobiographical story of author Tobias Buckell’s breaking-in to the novel writing world with great interest.  And since reading his latest installment, “The Value of Friends“, I’ve been thinking about the idea of my “cohort” of fellow speculative-fiction writers.

A “cohort” of writers, as suggested in Tobias Buckell’s piece, are a group of writers who are familiar with each other and who break-in to the industry roughly as a group.  They are writing contemporaries.  As mentioned in his article, the cohort is a supportive community who help each other and encourage each other.  There’s no formal delineation.  It’s a pretty ad-hoc organization.

I first wrote about the topic of writers in “community” back during my “Breaking In” series of posts in February/March of this year.  What I wrote in that article still holds true: that two purposes of writing communities are as a peer-review group and as a network to help develop crucial contacts that can lead to success.  But, I think I missed something else of vital importance in my conclusions on that post: the importance of community as an end unto itself.  Writers form communities in part because humans form communities, and membership in a community is a genuine human need.

So, I’ve wondered about my “community” and about my “cohort”.  Who is in it?  Where are we going?  How will we get there?  And can we, collectively, break in to professional writing?

Certainly, I find that fellow writer/blogger/future-published-author T. S. Bazelli is part of that “cohort”.   I’m continually impressed by her skill and facility with words and imagery, characters and the emotional component of story.  I will give you very favorable odds that Bazelli will be among the first of this group to get published.  I can also include my real-life friend (whom I will only call Ms. J., because she has not commented on my blog publicly) whose working draft I reviewed and commented on a couple months back.  The ideas in her novel draft are very engaging and original, and they leave you with a taste of “what happens next?” in your mouth.  Then there’s Barbara Tarn and Writer’s Block NZ.  I’ve also recently been following J. P. Cabit and Aidan Fritz, who have posted some interesting stories to their respective blogs.  And, if I expand my circle outward to include writers in genres other than speculative fiction, I’ll find Lua Fowles, a literary fiction writer who lives in a part of the world that’s so interesting, she can’t help but write interesting stories!  And there may be others whom I have neglected to mention.

Frankly, I worry that my cohort is looking a little anemic.  Over time (as free time permits – something that won’t be true in the immediate short-term) I hope to grow my “cohort” to include other great writers as I encounter them.  And together, hopefully we’ll help each other polish our work and perfect our craft as we make our way toward our mutual goal of publication.

There’s also the question of the rather nebulous nature of such a group.  Because it’s not a formal group, how do you figure who’s in the group and who isn’t?  I may have neglected to mention some names because I wasn’t sure if they counted as a member of my “cohort” or not.  How many such people would want to be counted thusly?  How many people that I have counted would not want to be?  And how much does it matter how you count the group?  What about members of my “community” who don’t aspire to be published writers, but who are interested in my success – like my Dear Wife, or other close friends?  These, too, can be very helpful in offering support, encouragement, and even reviews!

One thing’s for certain: it’s a tough road to walk, trying to get published.  And we’re going to need all the help we can get!

To those of you who comment regularly, and whose writing I am enjoying: Thank you.

So, sound off in the comments: who’s in your “cohort”?  Who’s in your community?  What thoughts would you like to share?

Happy writing… and reading…

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23 Comments leave one →
  1. June 30, 2010 9:27 am

    Hehe, yeah, T.S. is wildly imaginative! I love reading her blog and seeing what she will come up with next.

    I’ve seen a couple “cohorts” work out pretty successfully, like Kiersten White, Stephanie Perkins, Natalie Whipple, et al. in their online YA cohort. Definitely made me long for a cohort of my own… But mostly I have 2 writer-friends in real life (although we keep in touch online) that I correspond with about the biz, our stories, etc. It’s small, but it serves its purpose. {shrug}

    • June 30, 2010 9:35 am

      Likewise… I’m at the small end of the spectrum, at the moment. Mostly I think that’s due to having approximately 0 time to spend working at developing new contacts. Which… lacking that, I anticipate my “cohort” will remain small over the short term. In time… small amounts of free time will make themselves available, and I hope to make good use of them.

      Regardless… I’ve come to feel that having this group, this cohort, is so vital to writers: whether those of us striving for publication or those just trying to get their voice heard in the vastness – if we don’t work at it, writing can become such a solitary and lonely thing.

      Thanks for stopping by! Recent freeing-up of certain restrictive… um… things (I’m not sure how long it will last) may mean I can finally take a look at your blog, as well.

  2. June 30, 2010 3:49 pm

    Aww thanks Stephen & Kristan! ~blushes~

    The reason I started blogging at all was for this purpose: to meet other writers, to encourage, and to be encouraged. Writing is such a lonely occupation. I think I’d go nuts without anyone to talk to about writing, to relate to the craziness of it all.

    I’ve seen a cohort of sorts forming slowly but organically. To me, that cohort is anyone that is willing to engage in a conversation about writing, and seems to be near the same skill head space/location/attitude on this journey to publication. That includes you Stephen, and Kristan (who is well on her way ahead), J.P. Cabit, Aidan Fritz, and Harry Markov, and Lua. I hope to grow it with time 🙂 Make more friends. Some may come and go… the consideration may not go both ways either, but it still is far better than going it alone.

    • June 30, 2010 3:58 pm

      I mean no faint praise: I think you’ve got a rare talent, and I really hope to see you succeed and to get published!

      And I agree, I’ve watched this little cohort slowly start to grow, more by chance than by anything else. And I’m glad for that, because each of needs a little help and encouragement. Some of us have our significant others, which is priceless (Dear Wife: I ❤ U), but we're writers, dangit and we need more!

      • June 30, 2010 4:57 pm

        Hehe yes as much as I love my husband, he’s not a writer or a reader. Thankfully he’s good at patiently smiling and nodding when I start to gush about this character or that. LOL But yes, writers are a bit needy aren’t they? 🙂

        I’d like to see you succeed, and I know you have the dedication to make it. I want to see what happens with our little cohort! Give or take a few years, I wonder…

      • June 30, 2010 5:15 pm

        Lucky for me, my wife’s a reader. Although… what she wants to read isn’t always what it is I write, but she’s been willing to indulge me so far.

        I can imagine where we’ll be in a few years. Give us some time and some polish.

      • July 16, 2010 1:18 am

        It is good to have encouragement. I have my sambo (using the Swedish meaning of the word, which unromantically translates as unmarried but living together) and her mother who is a huge reader. But, it isn’t the same as other writers whose feedback and ideas on the writing struggle help open the eyes on how to improve.

        I look forward to seeing us all improve as we journey towards writing success.

      • July 16, 2010 8:52 am

        Ah, you’ve hit on another important part of the writer’s network: friends and loved ones. Those are important just for the emotional well-being and support that comes with them. If they’re avid readers (and willing to read and critique your work) then so much better, but that’s just gravy!

  3. Jenne' permalink
    July 2, 2010 1:22 am

    If your cohort is anemic, then mine is darn near skeletal. I think you are the only person I know besides myself who is actively working to break into the writing world. I understand what you mean about the thing about writers needing other writers. I recently read a quote somewhere which said(paraphrasing) writers love being solitary creatures who will venture out only to enjoy the company of other writers.

    • July 5, 2010 5:01 pm

      Funny quote. I think it often seems true… but I also suspect that many of us would be a tad more sociable if we could – if writing didn’t consume so much time!

      Either way… that’s one reason why so many writers make a habit of attending conferences and symposia, etc.

      Stick around here, though, and you’ll make a few other writing friends. The internet is great for that! (Alternately, I don’t know if it’s something you have time for right now, but you could also start a blog… just to have a place to connect with other writers.)

      • July 8, 2010 9:45 pm

        Yes Jenne, start a blog! It’s a good start, I think, to “Going public” as a writer. 🙂 Scare up a following, so when you start agent-hunting, and they google you, you wont be some obscure person without any public presence.

        And we all know that the internet is the new “public.” 🙂

  4. Lua permalink
    July 2, 2010 2:11 pm

    “One thing’s for certain: it’s a tough road to walk, trying to get published. And we’re going to need all the help we can get!”
    This is one of the many reasons why I’m a huge fan of ‘cohort’ when it comes to writers- we need the encouragements & support of each other. Breaking into the publishing industry is extremely difficult, stressful and consuming and having fellow writers who understand exactly what you’re going through is important.
    And the virtual community we have formed here is an excellent example of this; I really do feel the support and encouragement of the ‘cohort’ of writers 🙂

  5. July 6, 2010 12:19 pm

    Aw, I’m in someone’s cohort! lol

    I have a small band of motley writers growing too, including Stephen, T.S., Lua, Milk Fever, and Lulu Ariana, a writer in Indonesia. It’s fun. 🙂 Hopefully it will grow as time goes on. On average, I’m getting about one dedicated reader every week-and-a-half, or so. Maybe I can grab some big-names on my way up the chain.

    • July 6, 2010 12:32 pm

      Wow. One dedicated reader every week-and-a-half is great! I’m averaging something more like one every three or four weeks…

      I blame time. It doesn’t allow me to get around as much as I’d like.

      • July 6, 2010 12:34 pm

        Leaving comments all over the place is a sure trick, I think.

        I also don’t have a life like you, lol 🙂

      • July 6, 2010 12:40 pm

        Yeah, I’d trade a few more readers for time with Wife and Baby. Those are the real gems.

        Of course, I’d rather have it all, if possible…

      • July 6, 2010 2:36 pm

        Looks like you’ve got your priorities in order. Better a happy husband/dad than a successful blogger.

      • July 6, 2010 2:40 pm

        Very true.

  6. July 16, 2010 1:26 am

    It is interesting how organic communities start and evolve. I find myself in a similar predicament to you with lack of time (or sometimes more odd times) available but it is good to make connections.

    I originally had a cohort who lived two doors from me in the apartment complex, but life and other complexities stole her away and I hadn’t managed to find another writer with whom to work, so it is good to meet others… although I still find myself shy and hesitate to post much about myself. Of course, your comment on Mara’s Jingle made me realize that your work does say something about you and I should be careful about some of the worlds I dream up. I wouldn’t want to live on some of them.

    • July 16, 2010 9:02 am

      It’s sad when friends drift away. (That’s one of the nice things about Facebook and other social networks – it’s possible to reconnect with them these days.)

      I think it’s generally true that most of us wouldn’t actually want to live in the worlds we dream up – probably because we’re usually dreaming up worlds that have interesting problems and conflicts, but they’re problems and conflicts we’re often unequipped to deal with in real life. That’s part of what makes these sorts of stories interesting.

      • July 16, 2010 9:27 pm

        You’re right. However, I have a tendency to let the story pull me (you could say one flash’s premise was that in a world where sustainable economics & uphill shadowing curtailed one characters livelihood; burning the house down that was unfairly taking his light was acceptable) even though I may not entirely agree with it. I want to at least consciously think about it and not mindlessly follow all characters. I’ve got too many story ideas to follow the “less worthy” ones.

      • July 16, 2010 10:29 pm

        Indeed.

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